Round-by-round: Crouching Tigers ready to pounce?

AFL Round 4, 2013No Premiership since 1980. No Grand Final since 1982. No finals appearances since 2001. Has Richmond’s time at the top finally come around again after all this time without September glory? With three wins from their first three matches to start a season — their best start since 1995 — people are beginning to think the answer is “yes.” But despite all the hype, from supporters and the club itself, it’s the coming month in which Richmond will really prove themselves, as they face Collingwood, Fremantle and Geelong. This weekend suggested they have a long way to go.  Sydney vs Geelong (Friday, April 19)The first match of the round was between the last two premiers, unbeaten as yet in season 2013, and it shaped up to be a great match. It quickly became a fast-paced shootout: 15 goals were kicked in a highly-skilled, high-intensity first term, from which Sydney came out five points on top. Sydney built on this lead in the second quarter with the first two goals, before Geelong kicked the next two to ensure the margin remained five points by half-time, leaving supporters no more certain of who was going to win than they were before the match.That changed very quickly after half-time, as Geelong pulled off their now signature move of a third quarter lead-snatching rampage led by lionhearted captain Selwood. They slammed on seven goals to one in an inspired performance, with a goal to Hunt on the three-quarter time siren giving them a 31-point lead. Star Sydney players Hannebery and Roberts-Thompson also limped off, adding injury to insult for the Swans. To their credit, Sydney kept the game alive with five final quarter goals, but the bottom line is the Cats remain undefeated after four rounds, yet again challenging the notion that their era of premiership glory is over.Stokes and Selwood were best for Geelong with 31 touches each, while youngsters Jack and Hanneberry each had 29 for Sydney.Geelong 19.10.124 def Sydney 16.7.103 Hawthorn vs Fremantle (Saturday, April 20)Hawthorn got the lead early, and never looked like giving it up. They seized control in a five-goal-to-zilch first term, Rioli shining early with two goals. Fremantle finally kicked into gear in the second term, but couldn’t make any inroads into Hawthorn’s lead which remained at five goals by half-time. They continued to go toe-for-toe with Hawthorn throughout the second half, though the lead fluctuated: Fremantle got within three goals halfway through the last term, before Hawthorn kicked the last four of the match to extend the margin to something more representative of their dominance around the ground.For Hawthorn, Grant Birchall played one of his best matches ever, with 37 touches and 12 marks, while Franklin and Roughead reasserted themselves as one of the league’s best forward duos with four goals each. Mundy and Fyfe topped the disposal count for Fremantle as usual, each with over 25 touches and 100 Dream Team points.Hawthorn 18.10.118 def Fremantle 11.10.76 Richmond vs CollingwoodWhile Richmond had much to prove, Collingwood was equally convinced the match was important for them. Coach Buckley said it would be a real test of where Collingwood were at, and early on it looked like they had work to do: Richmond had a hot start with the first two goals, and when King goaled to restore their lead to 11 points by quarter time, it looked like Richmond really were a force to be reckoned with. Collingwood steadied in the second, however, kicking three early goals to get the lead as the contest tightened up. By half-time, Richmond led by three points.As competitive as the match seemed before half-time, it was what happened after that ultimately separated the contenders from the pretenders. Spearheaded by seemingly invincible forward Cloke, who kicked the term’s first three goals, the Magpies piled on the pressure — evident in them winning the overall tackle count 48 to 33 — in an onslaught Richmond couldn’t contain even by starting a melee halfway through the term. Collingwood kicked eight goals for the term, taking a six-goal lead into the final change, which would have been greater but for two late Richmond goals. Collingwood ended up winning by five goals, and Richmond will no doubt leave the match with their tail between their legs and their egos crushed like insects. They can, however, be proud of remaining competitive to the final siren; they got within 22 points of Collingwood halfway through the last term before Collingwood sealed the match with late goals.Swan excelled for Collingwood in his 200th game with 35 touches, while Shaw was praised for his talismanic work in defence. Captain Cotchin again was best for Richmond, but individually the day belonged to Cloke. With a career-high seven goals (four in that third term), 20 disposals, 14 marks (many contested) and 147 Dream Team points, Cloke reasserted himself as perhaps the league’s best key forward.Collingwood 16.17.113 def Richmond 11.13.79 Essendon vs St. KildaEssendon lost both Ryder and Kommer to rough conduct charges during the week, but regained ruckman Hille and Winderlich. Goddard was the only name that mattered in the Essendon side, however, lining up for his first match against old club St. Kilda. It didn’t seem to faze him early (though he’d later choke up with emotion in a post-match interview) as he got the first mark and goal of the game—part of Essendon’s six-goal-to-three opening quarter. It set up the win early, and Essendon kept all the confidence and intensity going forward for the next three terms. Though tempers flared in a clash on half-time, it did nothing to rejuvenate St. Kilda. Essendon’s dominance, coupled with the Saint’s wasteful decisions going forward, helped them to a six goal win, an injury to Hurley the only dimmer on yet another complete performance by the Bombers.Stanton and Heppell were best for Essendon with 28 touches each, while Gumbleton continued his return to AFL with four goals. Jones fought hard with 31 touches for St. Kilda.Essendon 19.14.128 def St. Kilda 13.13.91 Gold Coast vs Port AdelaidePort Adelaide started well with the first two goals, but Gold Coast evened the match up with the next two. The Suns began to get on top in forward 50 entries, and took a seven-point lead into quarter time. But in the second, Port’s young guns began to impose themselves on the match, Hartlett and Wingard helping them storm away with a nine-goal-to-one second term that gave them a 43-point lead at half-time. This purple patch ultimately sealed the game, and thereafter Port continued to dominate play. They extended their lead to over 50 points at one stage, before Gold Coast kicked three of the last four goals to make the game a win rather than a thrashing.Schulz and Westhoff again looked comfortable as a duo in Port’s forward line—they kicked seven between them for the night, with the former kicking all of Port’s three goals in the third term and taking another mark of the year contender. Cornes and Boak also did well with over 30 touches, a feat only Ablett could match for Gold Coast.Port Adelaide 16.8.104 def Gold Coast 9.12.66 West Coast vs CarltonCarlton got the first goal through Rowe, but was then subjected to immense pressure by West Coast in their defensive 50. The Eagles eventually took the lead from Carlton, though inaccurate kicking meant this lead was only three points by quarter time. Despite their dominance, this inaccuracy continued into the second term and inevitably came back to hurt them: by the second half of the term, the Eagles had kicked 3.14 and Carlton were getting on top through efficient disposal use and better running.Carlton’s ascendancy was typified by speedy midfielder Yarran running with multiple bounces into an open goal, supported by some superb shepherds from teammates. This happened not only once, but three times, leaving West Coast breathless and a game-high 20 points down at half-time.West Coast finally found the goals in the third term and the Perth crowd rediscovered its voice. A superb goal to Kerr within the final minute reduced the margin to 15 and cemented the momentum with the Eagles. But Carlton steadied, clogging the Eagles forward line and denying them a route to goal in the final term, ultimately rewarded with their — and coach Malthouse’s — first victory of the year. In game 246, Scotland showed no signs of slowing down for Carlton, with 18 disposals to half-time. S. Selwood fought hard with 32 touches for an Eagles side that generally lacked run.Carlton 12.17.89 def West Coast 7.23.65 Melbourne vs GWS (Sunday, April 21)This week the Demons’ luckless start to 2013 took another hit, with their club doctor standing down after revealing text messages linked him to the sports scientist at the heart of the recent drugs scandal, Stephen Dank. Things finally started to look up for them when the match began, however. They led by 8 points at quarter time after it was goal-for-goal early. Byrnes single-handedly helped Melbourne to a 17-point lead with three second-term goals, but five consecutive goals to GWS halfway through the term saw this lead evaporate. A familiar uneasy feeling must have settled in for Demons faithful as their team slipped to seven points behind at half-time.Melbourne showed renewed intensity directly after the main break, but the best they could do was draw level before GWS kicked away again, in front by 19 points at the final change. Staring down a loss at the hands of the worst team in the league, it seemed like resignation letters were being prepared for half the players and coaching staff. But from the greatest desperation comes the greatest triumph. Following an impassioned three-quarter time speech by besieged coach Mark Neeld, the Demons surprised even themselves; they blasted 12 last quarter goals to two in what was, ironically, the highest-scoring quarter in the club’s 155 year history.Never mind it was against the league’s least experienced team who’ve yet to win this year. A win is a win is a win, and Melbourne will savour every moment of it until they play Brisbane next week.Grimes and Jones were among their best, with 29 and 28 touches respectively, while for GWS O’Halpin kicked five goals and Treloar impressed with 30 touches.Melbourne 22.12.144 def GWS 15.13.103 Adelaide vs Western BulldogsIn wet conditions, Adelaide got the early break with Dangerfield kicking the first two goals. But Boyd and Cooney both goaled in the final two minutes to keep the Dogs within a point by quarter time. Players were slip-sliding everywhere by the second, as clean disposals became as rare and valuable as gold. Adelaide emerged the more composed side in the sloppiness, kicking two goals while the Bulldogs failed to score for the term, giving Adelaide a 15-point lead at half time. The third term was no different; Adelaide adding another five goals while the Dogs’ poor ball use meant they only scored one behind. The Dogs’ went into the final break with a total score of 15 points, their lowest three-quarter time score in a decade and an unassailable 46 points behind Adelaide.Needless to say, the game lost all of its sting by the last term, with the easily-excitable Channel 7 commentary team finding no reason to raise their voices even when Cooney put through the Dog’s first goal in over an hour with six minutes to go. Kerridge’s goal on the final siren extended the final margin to 52.Dangerfield finished with four goals for Adelaide and Thompson led the disposal count with 29. Cooney stood out with 30 touches and two of the Dogs’ three goals, but the team will have difficulty finding any positives from the match other than avoiding their lowest score ever.Adelaide 12.8.80 def Western Bulldogs 4.4.28 North Melbourne vs BrisbaneWhile Sudanese debutant Majak Daw commanded much of the pre-game attention, North was more concerned about getting its first win on the board, having been rolled by opposition teams despite being in front in each of their first 3 games.Both North and Daw began well, the latter taking a contested mark and kicking the first goal with his first kick for the former, as North charged out to a 32-point lead at quarter time. Daw’s emphatic start didn’t last long, however, subbed out with concussion at quarter time. But North held onto their 32-point lead till half-time as both teams kicked three goals and three behinds in the second.North had threatened to break the game open all night, and finally did so with the first five goals of the third term to double their margin by the final break. They ended up with more than twice Brisbane’s score, winning their first match of the year in a very convincing style.Petrie and Thomas kicked four apiece for North, while Rockliff had 26 for Brisbane and ruckman Leuenberger continued to impress in his return to AFL.North Melbourne 18.17.125 def Brisbane 9.8.62by Alexander Darling

April 23rd 2013
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